'Half of a Yellow Sun' is an epic love story weaving together the lives of tour people swept up in the turbulence of war. Olanna (Newton) and Kainene (Anika Noni Rose) are glamorous twins from a wealthy family who return to the privileged city life of newly independent 1960s Nigeria after their expensive English education. Olanna shocks her family by going to live with her "revolutionary professor" lover (Ejiofor) and his new houseboy Ugwu (John Boyega), while her sister becomes a successful businesswoman and falls in love with an English writer (Joseph Mawle, Birdsong). As civil war engulfs them, they are thrown together and pulled apart in ways they had never imagined.
Everytime I see a biopic that is depicting a terrible time of conflict and pain I quickly jump to the conclusion it will be an emotionally manipulative picture that will toy with viewers emotions for the sake of cheap tears. Half of a Yellow Sun unlike the many films that have proved me wrong never once feels like more than a cheap ploy for artistic attention.
The film follows sisters Olanna (Thandie Newton) and Kainene (Anika Noni Rose) and their lives once they discover that their country has been turned upside down by an emerging civil war that they find themselves wrapped up in. The two put aside the things that separated them and forced them apart for the sake of their country as the two work with one another to finally establish a free republic, the kind of country they have always wanted and believed it could be.
Although that may be the official logline or as close to it as I can mention the film really revolves mostly around Olanna and her relationship with fellow Nigerian Odenigbo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and how the war split them apart and also bound them together as they fought the good fight for the soul of the country. The film however uses this sappy structure to pander in pleasantries and false moments of heartbreak. The film is stagey, it never feels comfortable in its own skin and the script is rigid and uncompromisingly wooden in its execution.
The whole thing seems like a beginning of a story with the ideal of an end as the film peters out towards the end thanks to a lack of commitment and the conviction to carry it through. Although I know nothing of the book I can only imagine it was braver and more willing to take risks in its storytelling as the tale of a vicious civil war is degraded to a love story for two people that couldn’t be further from each other at any given moment in the movie